Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 36.djvu/142

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132
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

might have been expected; the working of the Education Act, and of several benevolent enterprises in behalf of children, "have brought to light an appalling amount of semi-starvation, ill-treatment, or neglect, to which children are subjected with impunity at the hands of drunken, dissolute, or idle and improvident parents." Thousands of them do not get a single good meal a day, but come breakfastless to school, and their midday meal is provided by a charity. Cases of neglect and cruelty are brought before magistrates against which no statute provision can be found, so that one officer was driven to declare: "Had it been a dog, I could have helped you; but it is only a child, and I am powerless to assist." The want of paternal responsibility is what drives unmarried mothers to crimes against their offspring. What can they do with them in the situation in which they find themselves? In such cases the author would make the father of the child jointly liable. Matters are better in most of the American States, but in the majority of cases our own provisions lack enormously of what they ought to be. There are practical difficulties in the way of securing adequate protection by law which can not be overlooked; so that the best that can be done will be short of what is desired. But this only enforces the reasons for "doing the best that can be done."

 

Structure of the Ether.—"We seem," said Prof. Fitzgerald, in the British Association, "to be approaching a theory as to the structure of the ether. There are difficulties connected with diffusion in the simple theory that it is a fluid full of motion, a sort of vortex sponge. There are similar difficulties in the wave theory of light, owing to wave propagation round corners, and there is as great a difficulty in the jelly theory of the ether arising from the freedom of motion of matter through it. It may be found that there is diffusion, or it may be found that there are polarized distributions of fluid kinetic energy which are not unstable when the surfaces are fixed; more than one such is known. Osborne Reynolds has pointed out another, though in my opinion less hopeful, direction in which to look for a theory of the ether. Hard particles are abominations. Perhaps the impenetrability of a vortex would suffice. Oliver Lodge speaks confidently of a sort of chemical union of two opposite kinds of elements forming the ether. The opposite sides of a vortex ring might perchance suit, or may be, the ether, after all, is but an atmosphere of some infra-hydrogen element; these two latter hypotheses may both come to the same thing. Anyway, we are learning daily what sort of properties the ether must have. It must be the means of propagation of light; it must be the means by which electric and magnetic forces exist; it should explain chemical actions, and, if possible, gravity. On the vortex-sponge theory of the ether there is no real difficulty by reason of complexity why it should not explain chemical actions. In fact, there is every reason to expect that very much more complex actions would take place at distances comparable with the size of the vortices than at the distances at which we study the simple phenomena of electro-magnetism. . . The theory that material atoms are simple vortex rings in a perfect liquid otherwise unmoving is insufficient, but with the innumerable possibilities of fluid motion it seems almost impossible but that an explanation of the properties of the universe will be found in this connection."

 

The "Rabbit Pest" in Australia—The prevalence of the "rabbit pest" in Australia seems to be largely a result of man's indiscreet interference with the order of nature. Hares were introduced for coursing. Pet rabbits were brought over, and a few pairs of gray rabbits were turned out near Geelong, to form a warren. The last lot are believed to have been the fathers of the mischief, although some of the traits of the pets are found among the pests. The rabbit army generally trends toward the north because it started from too near the ocean to advance south. Night travelers along the Murray River used to describe the noise made by the rabbits scampering off from the coach-lights as something like the pattering of a hail-storm. The colonists made a first mistake in having the dingoes, or native dogs, destroyed, because they were dangerous to the sheep. Then the kangaroos began to multiply, taking advantage of the accommodations provided for the sheep. As soon as they were reduced to manageable